William E. Conner has studied animal behavior and insect biology for more than thirty years. Conner is professor of biology at Wake Forest University, and received his PhD at Cornell. His studies of pheromonal and acoustic communication between the sexes and high-frequency sound communication between bats and moths have taken him from North Carolina, South Florida, and Arizona to mainland Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. Recent findings include evidence for acoustic warning signals produced by moths and acoustic mimicry in the bat-moth arms race.
"Inspirational" is not often used with science publications. From time-to-time it is necessary to gather together all of the current knowledge accumulating in the very specialized primary research journals read only by specialists. Often this important compilation is accomplished in review articles in various "Annual Review" series. Again, these are usually read by a narrow science audience and are exciting only to those who are already in lab or field research.
But the book format lends itself to a larger audience (not that there aren't many dry science compendia that are only read by researchers). Tiger Moths and Woolly Bears reaches a little further than this; it is a technical book that still has the appeal and color photos to grab the imagination of young students who may become scientists.
Each of the 15 chapters is written by one or more specialists and each summarizes what is known about these moths in their area of expertise: the taxonomic and evolutionary status of the family, immature stages, adoption of plant alkaloids for defense, effectiveness of chemical defenses, behavior and evolutionary ecology of the caterpillars, coloration and mimicry, female sex pheromones, male courtship pheromones, the relationship between chemical defense and sex, caterpillars' response to sounds, adult moths' response to sound and their ability to jam bat sonar, patterns of diversity, and specific treatment of certain species.
For me as a young insect collector many decades ago, the arctiid moths were always special. Many of them flew in the daytime when other moths were inactive. They are also very colorful and stand out against the natural background, a sure sign that they taste bad to birds. Today, these are no longer enigmas. But the answers here are not simple.Read more ›
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